Power Rankings: Shriners Children's Open
3 Min Read
Editor's note: Kevin Na withdrew on Tuesday.
Since 1983, what has happened in Vegas has stayed in Vegas. This is the 39th edition of the Shriners Children's Open.
Just like the city and the Strip, the tournament also has undergone many teardowns and rebuilds, literally and competitively, but it’s been a 72-hole competition only at TPC Summerlin now for 14 consecutive years. However, if America’s Playground yielded the success experienced inside the ropes the last two years especially, casinos would struggle to stay in business.
Scroll past the projected contenders for an explanation, how the course sets up and more.
Defending champion Martin Laird, Marc Leishman, Kevin Kisner, Patrick Reed, Harris English and Dunhill Links champion Danny Willett will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
“Golf in a dome” is a familiar phrase when the subject matter is the relative simplicity of professional golf in the desert, but “funnel for the cup” should be as well given how easy TPC Summerlin has played.
After the par 35-36—71 averaged just 68.859 in 2019, the scoring average dropped to 68.343 last year. The 2020 average established TPC Summerlin’s record low as a par 71 (2009-present) and it was the lowest of all par 71s on the PGA TOUR in the last 16 completed seasons. The 2019 average is the second-lowest of all par 71s of the last 10 seasons.
Last year’s 36-hole cut of 7-under 135 set a PGA TOUR record for lowest in relation to par. However, since the 2019-20 season, 36-hole cuts in non-majors have been reduced to low 65 and ties. Had the previous iteration of low 70 and ties been in play, last year’s cut would have landed at 6-under 136 because only 66 survived the newest cut line.
That nuance notwithstanding, to determine why scoring has plummeted even at a tournament where it’s always been low thanks in part to favorable weather conditions, one of the reasons concerns the tallest rough around the perimeter. For the fourth consecutive edition, it’s trimmed to two inches, which is down an inch from the previous length. Directly correlated to that are greens-in-regulation splits of about 75 percent, or 5-10 percent higher than what was customary through 2017. Because the bentgrass greens that run at just 11½ feet on the Stimpmeter are the same, all returning participants already are warm upon arrival in the context of their experience.
Scoring has been so golfer-friendly over the years that it’s mildly surprising the TPC Summerlin hasn’t surrendered a sub-60. In fact, there have been only two 60s in tournament history – J.J. Henry in 2013 and Rod Pampling in 2016.
Matthew Wolff carded last year’s low aggregate – a 61 in the third round – before going on to lose in a three-way playoff from which Martin Laird emerged with the trophy. The Scot’s path to victory was as balanced as you’re going to witness. He was second in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green but just 20th in Strokes Gained: Putting and T10 in putting: birdies-or-better. He also finished a mere T15 in par-4 scoring, but he co-led in par-5 scoring at 4.00 with three eagles (all on the ninth hole), six birdies and three pars.
TPC Summerlin can stretch to 7,255 yards and it’s unchanged since last year’s open-book quiz. With another solid field in town and a bevy of Korn Ferry Tour graduates carrying momentum into the new season, the field average will come to rest well under par once more.
Cooler air than in recent years could govern distance off the tee marginally, but that’s fact over friction. After a daytime high of about 80 degrees in the opening round, it might not hit that number again as light winds will rotate to push in from the north by the weekend. If any of the clouds that form release moisture, it might not even reach the ground.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY: Sleepers; Fantasy Insider